Highest-earning software salaries ranked

A deep dive into the highest-earning salaries that are being offered across the software market

Digital technology is now near the summit of corporate agendas globally, with businesses of all sizes citing long-term innovation as a top priority for maintaining the experience of employees and customers. This has led to surging demand for software skills from the top down in the organisational hierarchy.

As competition remains high for senior tech industry positions, salaries to match can fluctuate depending on compensation, bonuses and profit shares – not to mention the level of experience.

“The IT industry has seen some of the largest salary inflations, but research shows that 81 per cent of companies still find it difficult to hire due to acceleration of new job creation as a result of emerging technologies,” said Mina Van Piggelen, head of interim and contract: strategic clients and SMB at Experis.

“That over-hiring and over-compensating coming out of the pandemic was followed by this inflation, but we’re seeing a small decline in this trend. Businesses seem to be more cautious now about those overinflated salaries. There’s still a lot of competition, however.”

Salvo Depetro, director of technology and change at Barclay Simpson, commented: “Salaries offered tend to depend more on the industry than the software programming language. Trading companies are always looking for a top software developer, and this can be very lucrative.”

While the highest leadership positions in the software space still often call for a Master’s degree in computer science, tech companies hiring for lower development and engineering roles have been gradually shifting to more unorthodox talent-searching measures, in order to boost diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to aid long-term innovation. What’s more, these roles are increasingly being carried out with the aid of artificial intelligence (AI).

Here are the current highest-earning software positions, and their salary payment ballparks, along with explanations of each role.

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Chief information officer (£105,000-250,000)

Overseeing the IT infrastructure across the organisation, the chief information officer (CIO) ensures that internal operations are consistently working smoothly in line with employee and business goals. This includes leading implementation of new software, as well as overseeing maintenance of existing systems – checking for any need for replacement of legacy software. The main goals for this role encompass promotion of efficient processes, for the best value, while optimising costs spend on said processes.

Over the years, the position has become closer aligned with business-first leaders including the CEO and CFO, as tech has gradually emerged from its own silos to aid more collaborative innovation, and bring a greater effect on the bottom line.

Depending on tech leadership experience gained previously, a CIO’s salary can start at £105,000, and rise up to as much as £250,000 a year. Often, this yearly pay can include stakes held in the organisation – particularly in a start-up – along with other compensation.

Chief information security officer (£110,000-200,000)

With cyber attacks continuing to scale and evolve, catching out organisations big and small and breaching their networks, the chief information security officer (CISO) role is paramount to long-term protection of all data. In this role, the CISO will develop and lead the roll-out of a business-wide security strategy that satisfies the needs of everyone from the CEO downwards. Along with day-to-day security of systems, the strategy should also encompass business continuity and disaster recovery for when infrastructure is breached by threat actors.

In addition, the CISO monitors new and evolving threats, as well as software vulnerabilities, and adjusts the strategy accordingly. This may involve collaboration with the chief information officer (CIO) on the products, services and protocols required to keep the business completely secure.

Software recruitment figures suggest a salary range of £110,000 up to £200,000, depending on the experience and tenure of the executive in this position.

Chief technology officer (£80,000-115,000)

The chief technology officer (CTO) oversees all customer-facing digital processes, ensuring that maximum value can be driven from technologies and platforms with costs and business benefits in mind. The design, testing and roll-out of systems for consumers, vendors and other external partners – along with the constant testing of existing tech – is all led by the CTO, and calls for consistent communication and feedback between all departments.

In an SMB, the role of the CTO may overlap with the chief information officer (CIO), with duties also covering in-house technology deployments that impact employees, as well as customers.

Depending on experience, a CTO’s salary can begin at £80,000 according to recruitment figures, and ascend to as high as £115,000 per year with longer-serving and more seasoned tech executives. As with that of the CIO, earnings can include company stakes held, along with other compensation.

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Data scientist (£40,000-£80,000)

Data scientists are responsible for overseeing collection, pre-processing and analysis of multiple data sources maintained across the organisation, looking for trends that can guide greater value long-term. Data visualisation, machine learning algorithm management and presentations to tech and business leaders all fall under this role.

Additionally, data scientists will often collaborate with other software development and engineering staff to help propose solutions to current and future challenges, leaning on data trends and patterns.

Due to the wide scope for possible responsibilities and requirements called for in this role – owing to the evolution of data science capabilities including AI – salaries offered for the position can vary widely, from £40,000 for less experienced data scientists, to £80,000 for more seasoned tech leaders.

Full-stack developer (£50,000-80,000)

The position of the full-stack software developer covers design, testing, roll-out and maintenance of company systems, in line with the wider tech strategy set out by the CTO. Coding and visual designs, utilising knowledge of front and back-end processes, is key to the role. While engineers will be more collaborative in the business, developers tend to work more independently, with more of the working day dedicated to periods of so-called ‘deep work’.

Products created by the full-stack developer can include mobile and web applications, as well as company websites that would be used by employees and customers. This comes with the creation and maintenance of databases and servers.

Figures from tech recruitment experts show that the salary for a full-stack developer can range from £50,000 to £80,000.

Software engineer (£70,000-75,000)

Software engineers in an organisation generally create software and applications, based on the wider tech strategy proposed by the CTO, as well as feedback from department teams. A prominent differentiator between software engineers and developers, is that engineers are more likely to brainstorm creativity in meetings with departments, discussing the needs of teams.

The software engineer role can fall under a variety of names referring to software areas focused on, and cover front and back-end processes, or both. Products created can include programs, mobile applications, communication channels and content management systems (CMS). These need to be constantly debugged when issue arise.

While multiple tech recruitment sources find that, more often than not, average salaries offered to software engineers fall slightly below that of developers (up to £75,000), this can start much higher (£70,000).

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Back end developer (£40,000-70,000)

Responsible for the coding, testing and rollout of back end operations for the business is the back end developer. This encompasses the core application, data storage and integration, and application programming interfaces (APIs). Working on the server side, back end developers need to utilise understanding of programming languages and tools to create improvements to processes for long-term business success.

While tending to spend much of the working day engaging in independent deep work on coding sites and applications, back end developers also need to collaborate with their front end counterparts, as well as members of different teams, to overcome flaws and challenges faced across the organisation.

Starting at around £40,000 a year, the salary of a back end developer can reach £70,000 a year with enough experience.

Front end developer (£30,000-65,000)

Covering all things end user-facing is the front end developer, responsible for overseeing how sites and applications look when live. This calls for a different, but equally vital, kind of creativity for designing and structuring platforms that would be used by current and potential customers, as well as fellow employees.

Using their understanding of programming languages and tools, this role also covers debugging of any errors, constant optimisation of website performance, and shifting specifications and requirements where necessary, in line with technical requirements or user experience design. Front end developers often need to work alongside their back end counterparts to ensure an efficient, seamless process.

Front end developers can earn from a starting point of £30,000, up to £65,000 a year, depending on experience.


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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.